Terminology: deprecated?

Subject: Terminology: deprecated?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 6 Feb 2002 08:57:29 -0500

Richard Pineger has <<... written an internal Procedure template for a tech
writing house using the word DEPRECATED to describe a style that is no
longer to be used. Some of the authors here did not know the word and feel
that the word is not really common usage.>>

If the document is purely internal, and will be used by a relatively small
number of people, then it's not unreasonable to teach them the word and
expect them to learn it. That's easy enough to do using a footnote in the
procedure or by adding the word to a glossary. For that matter, you could
specifically include a section entitled "Deprecated styles", with an
introductory sentence that says "These style are supported but should not be
used because they may not be supported in the future." Audience education is
a good thing, particularly when you can explain the consequences of
something being deprecated rather than simply labeling it!

However, word use is an important audience issue: if your colleagues don't
know the word, then that's the issue you should be focusing on, not whether
we techwhirlers know it and not whether the word is in common use. The word
"effugient" recently came up for discussion on the copyediting list, and
although some academic editors advocated leaving it because of its classical
overtones and the erudition it conveys, many others (myself included)
pointed out that the word was derived from the Latin (it means, roughly,
"fugitive") and that because it could not be found in any common unabridged
dictionary, it was a bad choice for most audiences. Clarity of communication
means using the right words, not words that are technically right.

<<Am I right to include the word DEPRECATED and attempt to educate them as
well as provide a template for another purpose or should I have searched for
a more common phrase like "not used anymore".>>

Actually, if the styles are truly deprecated, and you're building new
templates, why not simply eliminate them from both the new and the old
templates? The easiest way to discourage people from using the styles is to
make the styles unavailable in the first place. Then it doesn't matter what
you call them.

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
"User's advocate" online monthly at

"When ideas fail, words come in very handy."--Goethe

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